Author: Susan Peschin, MHS
Date: March 9th, 2017
Washington, D.C., March 9, 2017 - Alliance for Aging Research (Alliance) President and CEO Susan Peschin, MHS, has issued the following statement regarding the markup of the American Health Care Act by the Committee on Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives:
The Alliance for Aging Research respectfully asks Congressional Leaders to reconsider proposed repeal and replacement provisions for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that risk the health and financial well-being of the most vulnerable Americans. Provisions of The American Health Care Act threaten to leave millions of people living with serious illnesses in limbo without adequate coverage. This not only will put their physical and financial health in jeopardy, but also increase costs to states as care gets shifted to high-cost settings such as emergency rooms and nursing homes.
For example, the proposed ‘Patient and State Stability Fund’ provides qualifying states with a marginal lump sum to use on a menu of options, including high-risk pools to insure people with pre-existing health conditions. While insurers are prohibited from denying coverage or charging more money to patients based on pre-existing conditions, these changes will still drive up health care costs, leaving many without the ability to pay for higher-cost treatment. And, for those who let their coverage lapse for 63 days or more, the ‘continuous coverage’ requirement subjects them to an increased rate penalty of 130 percent. Both proposals will make health care unaffordable for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions.
The proposed changes to Medicaid financing threaten to adversely impact millions of low-income Americans. Per capita caps could force states to cut eligibility, reduce benefits, and lower provider reimbursement, particularly for high-cost enrollees—such as those under age 65 with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease or cancer—who need substantial services under the program.
The Act also increases the age band limit insurers can charge older adults from the current three times the premium of younger enrollees to five times the premium. However, counsel clarified at the Energy and Commerce Committee mark-up that states will have the discretion to narrow or expand the ratio with no defined limits. This unlimited increase will put coverage financially out of reach for many adults ages 50-64 and likely will increase federal spending for treatment of unmanaged health conditions. To echo Congressman Gene Green, ‘Is getting older going to be a pre-existing condition?’
Further, legislation to defund the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) is penny-wise but pound-foolish. The PPHF has helped millions of older adults avoid the debilitating and costly risk of falls and strokes, better manage their multiple chronic conditions, avoid deadly infections, receive immunizations, learn how to identify symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and more. The use of evidence-based, effective public health efforts, like the ones supported by PPHF, can result in health care savings of as much as $5.60 per every health dollar spent.
The bottom line is that existing coverage programs and structures have provided security and certainty for older and seriously ill Americans that they now expect and deserve. We stand ready to work with the administration and the Congress to develop policies that will ensure all Americans have access to a robust health insurance market that provides affordable and comprehensive coverage options.
The Alliance for Aging Research is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the pace of scientific discoveries and their application in order to vastly improve the universal human experience of aging and health. The Alliance was founded in 1986 in Washington, D.C., and has since become a valued advocacy organization and a respected influential voice with policymakers. Visit agingresearch.org for more information.